The Briefcase Diaries

New York State’s Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Requirement

So, you took the LSAT, got accepted to law school(s), completed three years of coursework and your 50-hour pro bono requirement, passed the Bar Exam and have been admitted to the Bar. However, you’re not quite done with all of the requirements necessary to practice law in New York State. Now, it’s time to complete your 32 credit hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE).

The mandatory CLE requirement is a “transitional legal education program designed to help recent graduates and newly admitted attorneys become competent to deliver legal services at an acceptable level of quality as they enter practice and assume primary client service responsibilities.”[1] This program essentially aims to round out your law school education and targets subject areas such as ethics, professionalism, practice management, and other skills.

Newly admitted attorneys are required to complete “a minimum of 32 credit hours of accredited transitional education” within the first two year of their admission to the Bar.[2] 16 credits should be completed each year and there are specific requirements that must be met within those 16 credits each year. Of those 16 credits, 3 must be in ethics and professionalism, 6 must be in skills, and 7 must be in “law practice management and areas of professional practice.” However, the ethics and professionalism and skills requirements may be “intertwined” with the law practice management and areas of professional practice requirement.[3]

Each of these subcategories have their own format eligibility, however all formats must be approved by the Continuing Legal Education Board. Skills credits must be earned in a “traditional live classroom setting” or can be obtained by “attendance at a fully interactive videoconference.”[4] Ethics and Professionalism credits can be obtained the same way skills credits are obtained, or by “participation in the live simultaneous transmission of a live program, such as a webinar or teleconference, where audience questions are allowed during the program.”[5] The professional practice and law practice management credits are a bit easier to complete, as they “may be completed in any approved format, including nonparticipatory formats such as on-demand video, live broadcast, DVD, audio recording, etc.”[6]

You can start completing these requirements as soon as you graduate law school, but not before then.[7] Often these CLE programs take place at law schools (local bar associations may also provide CLE programs). You may have received emails from your law school about panels and seminars, which award CLE credits.

This raises a question: if the goal of the mandatory CLE program is to round out our legal education, why are current law students ineligible for CLE credits? There’s an argument that we, as students, have more than enough going on and being concerned with completing an additional 32 hours of work would be burdensome. However, there is also an argument that we should be able to obtain some portion, maybe a quarter of the total credits required, during our second and third years of law school. Many students attend these panels, seminars, and symposia out of genuine interest in the subjects being spoken about. They have attended the events just as the newly admitted attorneys have, however they do not receive a Certificate of Attendance and therefore do not receive credits like the newly admitted attorneys.

If you are looking for more information about the Mandatory CLE program you can check out the New York State Bar Association’s website or the New York State Unified Court System’s website.

[1] 22 NYCRR §1500.11
[2] 22 NYCRR §1500.12 (a)
[3] Id.
[4] New York State Unified Court System. “Continuing Legal Education.” New York Courts dot gov. Accessed September 19, 2017. http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/cle/newattorney_faqs.shtml.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] 22 NYCRR §1500.12 (e)